AustinPUG Health

AustinPUG Health

As costs in the medical industry continue to rise, hospitals and medical care providers are pressed to reduce their expenses. One area that has been the target of many budget cuts is the maintenance and updating of medical equipment. While the immediate cost of equipment maintenance may seem daunting, the long-term legal ramifications of using old and outdated equipment to treat patients may justify the short-term loss.

img Medical Equipment ID 488 The Legal Costs Of Using Old And Outdated Medical Equipment

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The Cost of Updating and Maintaining Medical Equipment

Traditionally, health care providers have three options for maintaining and updating their equipment. (1) They can use in-house technicians to service the equipment themselves. (2) They can pay the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to maintain the equipment, or (3) they can hire an independent service organization (ISO). In some situations, providers will maintain in-house technicians and pay for either OEM or ISO services only when their technicians are unable to correct a problem.

In terms of services provided by either the OEM or an ISO, medical care providers often have the option of either paying for time and materials on an as-needed basis, or entering into a long-term service contract. Providers can also opt to purchase insurance which can cover all or a portion of the cost of equipment repairs and maintenance. Equipment maintenance costs–whether in the form of contractual payments, individual repair bills, insurance premiums, or the cost of maintaining in-house technicians–are sometimes given low priority, and the equipment necessary in providing adequate medical care lapses into disrepair.

The Cost of Not Updating and Maintaining Medical Equipment

Old and outdated medical equipment can have serious long-term legal costs in the form of malpractice lawsuits. Medical care providers are generally considered to owe a certain level of care to their patients. If a provider fails to provide the commonly expected level of care to their patients, and this lack of care causes harm to the patient, the patient may be able to bring a successful malpractice lawsuit.

Some jurisdictions have extended the reasonably expected level of care to include the maintenance and updating of hospital equipment and held that the failure to update and maintain equipment constitutes a breach of this standard of care. In May of 2012, a Philadelphia jury awarded $78.5 million (Nicholson-Upsey v. Touey) to an infant and the infant’s mother in a case involving a poorly maintained and outdated bedside ultrasound machine.

Victoria Upsey experienced complications during her pregnancy and went to Pottstown Memorial Medical Center to receive treatment. Doctors at Pottstown Memorial performed tests using an ultrasound machine that had not been serviced in 10 years. Because of the inadequacies of the machine, the doctors were unable to detect the infant’s heartbeat and incorrectly assumed that the infant was dead. The doctors ordered an additional test to confirm the finding. A technician arrived and performed the test after 81 minutes, discovering that the doctor’s initial conclusion was incorrect and that the baby was indeed alive. An emergency procedure was ordered to deliver the baby, but the delay in conducting the procedure due to the erroneous finding caused irreparable brain damage. The jury awarded damages to the mother and her infant for the harm caused by the faulty medical equipment.

In determining the expenditures which are appropriate in the updating and maintaining of medical equipment, providers should carefully consider the potential long-term consequences of using old and poorly maintained equipment to treat patients.

About the Author: Kevin Morris is a freelance writer interested in many different topics, including learning about the latest in equipment repairs and maintenance. He also writes reviews about CIA Medical and other companies that offer medical supplies.


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